It is, of course, extremely difficult for a Department dealing with a new Act to estimate very closely what its requirements will be. It is almost impossible for the Finance Department to ask questions that will probe the matter very much, especially when we are dealing with conditions such as we have to deal with here. There was no register and no record of the number of men who had been wounded. Nothing had been done to tabulate the material that existed or to collect the material until the Act was passed. There were men who were wounded in 1916, and there were other men who were wounded during the subsequent period, but there had been no examination of them from any official source. There was no record at all that they were wounded, and, as Deputies will understand, it was an exceedingly difficult thing to arrive at an estimate that would be an accurate one. We had none of the material that the Department of Defence would ordinarily have for forming this estimate, and that explains why, in the case of the wound pensions the divergence between the amount now found to be required and the original estimate is so great.
In regard to the extra statutory provision for hospital treatment, that is undoubtedly, I think, justifiable. There are men getting wound pensions and it is better, I think, to give them hospital treatment, in order that their condition may be improved, and that, perhaps, the wound pension may be unnecessary or may he reduced. I think it is better for the men themselves that their health should be improved, rather than that we should continue to pay them wound pensions. I think it is desirable from that point of view to give them hospital treatment. I think it is also durable to give hospital treatment to men who are making claims and who come up for examination. The extent to which we may depart from that is a matter about which I am not altogether satisfied. It is a matter which still remains to be determined, whether men who are not receiving wound pensions, but who are ex-soldiers, should receive hospital treatment. We have, of course, recently discharged large numbers of men from the Army. Their financial condition in all the circumstances is not often very satisfactory, and it may be justifiable to give certain hospital treatment to these men, although they may not be actually entitled to wound pensions, in view of their recent discharge from the Army. That is a matter that we can only deal with to a very limited extent.
Deputy Lyons referred to the need for legislation to include men under this Wound Pensions Act who are not at present included, and their dependants, in the case of men who died of disease contracted in the Army. There, again, the difficulty is exceedingly great, because men were admitted to the Army without any medical examination or without sufficient medical examination. Men were taken in when the great crisis arose in 1922. They were hurried into the Army at that time. We got them wherever we could get them, and as quickly as we could. As everybody knows, there was the greatest possible disorganisation at the time, and men were admitted into the Army whose health would not justify their admission in ordinary circumstances. It is extremely difficult, in the case of men who may suffer from disease now to know whether that disease was attributable to Army service at all. Men developed tuberculosis. We do not know whether they had it when they want into the Army. We do not know whether anything connected with their duty caused the contraction of the disease. The matter is one of very great complexity, and it is one of the matters which are under examination at the present time. I put it to deputies that it is not an entirely simple matter.
With regard to the possibility of an over-estimate under G, I would point out that this is a matter that is being dealt with by the Board of Assessors, who determine, but who have no responsilnlity for the finances of the matter. They simply deal with the evidence put before them in each particular case. If there were three times that amount there it would have nothing to do with them It would have nothing to do with them if there was no money provided at all until the next financial year came on. The Board would have nothing to do with that. because their only duty is to examine the evidence and find whether a man had service and if he was entitled to the pension, and to what extent he would come under the Act I do not know whether I am preventing the Minister for Defence dealing with this matter, but there was just one point raised by Deputy Cooper in regard to the number of ex-Commandants and ex-majors, which, I may say, is very easily explained. The people who are entitled to these pensions are people who had pre-Truce service and also National Army service.
The number of pre-Truce men was small, and in the circumstances that arose a great many of them were promoted and attained to high rank. I do not think that anything like one-half of the claims put in are genuine claims. The number of men who actually were out in 1916 and who had continuous service right through, serving in the National Army, must really be very small indeed. I would not like to mention a figure, but it is not one-tenth of the men who claim that There is no doubt that, under an Act such as this, any amount of fraudulent applications will be made, and that even by exercising the greatest care, fraudulent applications will go through.
I have had a good deal to do with the Police Pensions Act I have been as careful and as conservative as I could in dealing with that Act, and I have turned down many people for whom a great case was made, and yet I have found that people got through who were not entitled to. Not long ago, after a man was given a pension under that Act, a certain Major-General in the Army came in and gave information which proved clearly that that man was not entitled to a pension. Therefore, I say that even by exercising the greatest care, people who are not entitled to a pension will get through.